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Orange march strategy needs revisited


Saturdayís senseless disturbances on the Springfield Road provided proof -†if proof were needed - of the need for a change in how nationalists view contentious Orange marches.

This paper has long argued that many of our most controversial Orange parades - including Drumcree and the Tour of the North - are nothing more than coat-trailing exercises.

Indeed the recent Tour of the North - which culminated in vicious attacks on elderly Catholic pensioners - brought to that already troubled part of the city every ragtag anti-agreement sectarian zealot from far and near, all in the cause of sticking it up to nationalists.

In fact, these contentious Orange marches are one of the few occasions when the unreconstructed bigots of the LVF can give vent to their bitterly sectarian views. It was no surprise to ordinary nationalists that serial killers Billy Wright and Mark Fulton enjoyed a heroís welcome at Drumcree because the Drumcree faithful are the vanguard of the reactionary unionist response to the need to reconcile our divided peoples.

And yet, itís wrong to bracket all Orange marches which raise nationalist heckles in the same category as Drumcree.

In some instances, ordinary decent Orangemen find their commemorations effectively hijacked by the loyalist paramilitaries once nationalistsí objections are voiced.

That may be the case on the Springfield Road where the UDA and the UVF have both stepped forward as self-styled defenders of the Orange cause in face of nationalist protest. In short, protests are like manna from heaven to the paramilitaries who are already involved in all-out attacks on vulnerable and isolated nationalist families. The UDA can orchestrate attacks on Catholic families in North Belfast by night and by day step out Ďin defenceí of Orange values. Ditto the UVF except their war on Catholics is concentrated on Short Strand.

The street disturbances are not in the interest of nationalists who wish to see the potential for change in the Good Friday Agreement realised. They are, however, very much in the interest of the anti-Agreement unionists and their paramilitary hangers-on. Thatís why nationalists have to consider whether the approach to marches, such as that on the Springfield which ended in the worst rioting seen in West Belfast in several years, is counter-productive. Itís time to revisit the entire issue of how contentious Orange marches are handled.

July 2, 2002

This article appeared first on the web site on July 1, 2002.